Arthur Nicols.

The puzzle of life, and how it has been put together : a short history of the formation of the earth, with its vegetable and animal life, from the earliest times, including an account of Pre-historic man, his Weapons, Tools, and Works online

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Online LibraryArthur NicolsThe puzzle of life, and how it has been put together : a short history of the formation of the earth, with its vegetable and animal life, from the earliest times, including an account of Pre-historic man, his Weapons, Tools, and Works → online text (page 6 of 8)
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care it did not go out, and if they wanted to
travel they would carry with them a piece of
smouldering wood to light the fire again. I
do not suppose that these pre-historic men
were any more civilized than the savages of
Australia and other countries, and I have often
thought when looking at these savages that
they live in almost exactly the same way as
the earliest inhabitants of Europe did. They
have the same shaped weapons and tools
made of stone, and these are fixed to the
handles in the same way. They have the
same kinds of needles and fish-hooks made
of bone, and they sew skins together with


threads made from the sinews of animals.
Thus we see men living now in many parts
of the world who are quite as uncivilized as
the old inhabitants of Europe, who lived
perhaps thousands of years before the Egyp-
tians and Assyrians.

These very ancient men knew nothing
about metals. All their tools were made of
flint, or bone, or stone, and they were of the
rough shape you see in the pictures on the
next page, and it is for this reason that this
has been called the Stone Age. These were
chipped out with great trouble and labour,
and most of them were not even polished.
With these they had to kill animals for food,
to cut down trees, and fight against their
enemies. The skeleton of a mastodon was
found in the state of Missouri in America
about thirty-five years ago with numbers of
these flint arrow-heads underneath and near
it. Perhaps it had been shot at with arrows,
and when it died the flint points fell out of its
decaying flesh. But it is not likely that these
pre-historic men could have killed many such
large animals, unless they caught them in pits
covered over with branches of trees and earth,

1. Flint Arrow-head. 4. Bone Harpoon.

2. Stone Axe in handle. 5. Bone Needles.

3. flint Knife. 6. Sceptre made vf Horn.



into which they might fall, as elephants are
sometimes caught in Africa.

Nothing shows us so well the immense
time which must have passed since the men
of the stone age lived as that these flin
weapons and tools are found nearly all over
the world, in Northern Europe, including our
own country, in Spain, France, Italy, Greece,
Palestine, Africa, Japan, America, &c. ; and
yet none of the present inhabitants of these
countries have any history or tradition of the
time when they were used. Metals are now
used instead, and there is no record of the
time when flint only was known. We are
quite certain however that the stone age men
lived at the same period as the great animals
of the Tertiary age, the mammoth, the mas-
todon, the woolly rhinoceros, the Irish stag,
the cave bear, and others you have read of
in former chapters, because flint and stone
weapons are found in the same beds of earth
with these animals. 1

Suppose one of the present Indian or

1 British Antiquities Room, upper floor, Middle and Upper
Shelf-cases, Nos. i, 2, and 5-12, flint and stone implements.
Table-case B, horn implements from French caves and Swiss

K 2


African elephants with his rider were to fall
into a river and they were to sink to the
bottom and be covered with mud, and suppose
his rider had in his pocket some of our sove-
reigns. If that elephant should be accidentally
dug up thousands of years to come, when most
likely all elephants will have died off the earth,
people would know for certain, from the date
and figure of the Queen on the money, that
elephants were used by the English in this
reign, even if all our books and monuments
had perished, and a new people inhabited the
Earth. Something of the same kind has hap-
pened to prove to us that the stone-age men
saw the mammoth alive. In one of their
graves there is a slice of a mammoth's great
back tooth with a beautiful picture of the
animal, with his bristly hair, scratched on the
ivory, and there are also many of the flint
and stone weapons which show that the
skeleton in the grave was that of a pri-
meval man. This little picture tells its tale
more faithfully than any history. It is all
the more certain to tell it truly because it was
never meant to tell one. When that man
was buried with this sign that he was a


mighty hunter of the mammoth, or an artist,
no one could imagine that he would ever be
dug up to show us, who come so long after-
wards, that he saw the mammoth roaming
through the forests of the far away past.
There can be no doubt that it is a very good
drawing of the mammoth with its long turned-
up tusks, like those in the picture at the
beginning of the book.

In another place a picture of a fight
between some reindeer scratched upon a
piece of slate has been found. This was in a
cave in France, and it, as well as the numbers
of bones of these animals in the caves, shows
that the reindeer, which now only inhabits the
Arctic regions, must have been common then
in France. You will see drawings of both
these on page 135.

These primeval people built no houses.
They lived in' natural caves, and scattered the
remains of their food about the floor, so that
we know what they ate. Among the animals
they used for food were the horse, the reindeer,
the ox, the cave-lion and bear, the wolf, the
hyena, the goat, the hare and several others,
besides salmon and other fish. They were


very fond of the marrow of the bones, which
they cracked with stone hammers, and had
little spoons made of bone with which to pick
it out.

They had places for making flint wea-
pons too. At Cissbury Camp, near Worthing,
there is one of their old workshops. There
are galleries dug into the chalk where they
got the flints, and there are thousands of chips
of flint lying about, with half finished arrow-
heads, and some of the tools they dug with.
They had no spades or pickaxes ; but they
used the broad, flat, shoulder-blade bone of
the ox as a spade, and the sharp brow angler
of a deer's horn for a pickaxe, to get these
flints out with. It must have been very hard
work for them, because bone spades and horn
pickaxes would soon wear out, and would not
be nearly so useful as ours made of iron.

It is difficult to be certain how these stone-
age people cooked their food. Of course
they could have roasted it, and the half-
burnt bones in some caves show that they
did so ; but in some caves in France there is
not a single burnt bone to be found. In
these French cave dwellings, too, there are




Picture of Mammoth Scratched on Ivory.

Fight between Reindeer Scratched on Slate.


no pieces of earthenware, as there are in
some others ; so that the people could not
have boiled it. unless they had wooden
pots and dropped red hot stones into the
water in them until the meat got boiled, as
some savages do now. Or they might have
cooked it under the hot ashes.

The people who used earthenware must
have made more progress. It is easy to
understand how they made this useful dis-
covery. Suppose they had lighted a fire
upon a damp clay soil, the earth would get
baked hard and crack off in pieces, and they
would see that this soil could be worked in
the hands while soft into the shape of pans
and dishes, which could be dried quite hard
in the sun or baked in hot ashes, just as
boys make clay marbles now. They could
live much more comfortably even with these
rough earthenware things, and cook their
food more conveniently ; but they still used
the stone and flint tools and weapons, and
iron was still unknown to them.

The people of whom I have been speak-
ing are principally the men of the First Stone
Age, when the art of polishing tools and


weapons had not been found out. They
simply chipped these things out of the flints
and left them very rough ; but the men of the
next, or Second Stone Age, made great im-
provements. They ground their flint knives
and axes with other stones, and rubbed them
down to sharp edges and points, so that they
must have been much more useful for killing
and cutting up the animals they hunted. All
their bone and horn tools are much better
made, and sometimes ornamented prettily
with marks cut upon them. The Second
Stone Age men evidently wore clothing,
most probably made of the skins of animals
for the long strips of bone with a hole
at one end which you see in the picture
could not have been used for any other
purpose, except to draw threads through
something. The threads were very likely
either the sinews of animals pulled out of the
flesh, or thin strips of their skins, or perhaps
the inner bark of a tree twisted into a kind
of string. In the colder parts of Europe
and America these ancient people would
need some protection from the weather.
How; then did the people of the First Stone


Age manage, if they had no bone needles,
as I think they had not, with which to make
clothing ? They must have wrapped them-
selves in the skins just as they came from
the backs of the animals.

It is not easy to be always sure, when we
find a cave and all these relics of pre-historic
man, whether the inhabitants belonged to the
First or the Second Stone Age. Sometimes
there are signs of polishing and grinding on
the tools, and then we may suppose that men
were gradually getting more skilful, until they
finished off all their weapons beautifully.
But there is such a very great difference in
the perfection of these useful articles found
in some places and those found in others
that we have no doubt men made slow - pro-
gress, from the rough or First Stone Age,
to the polished or Second Stone Age,

In neither the first nor second stone period
had men yet learned to build any kind of
habitations. They lived in caves simply, like
wild animals. On the banks of the river
Vezere in France, which has cut its way
deeply through the rock, there are some
celebrated caves once inhabited by pre-historic


men, and some of them are very large.
They were most likely hollowed out in the
cliff by water, and many generations of men
lived here. In one of them four human
skeletons were found, with plenty of stone and
flint tools, besides the bones of the mammoth
and lion, reindeer and other animals. The
mammoth then as well as the reindeer lived
at that time in the valley of the Vezere.
There is no doubt that these caves were in-
habited at separate times by people who used
only the roughest and simplest stone tools,
and by others who had made some progress
and could polish their tools and make them of
bone and could scratch pictures of animals
upon slips of bone and slate. It is curious that
all these drawings are side-view drawings, and
they are only outlines, just like the drawings
of children now, and the Esquimaux of the
Arctic regions ; because these people, although
they were grown up, had not discovered the
art of drawing in perspective and shading
the figures. Still the pictures are wonderfully
true to nature, and must have been copied
from living animals. There is no earthenware
in any of these caves, so that the useful art of


making pottery had not been discovered,
neither is there any in the caves in Switzer-
land, where the bones of the mammoth, lion,
and rhinoceros are also found, and the tools
and weapons are much the same as those in
the French caverns. It is impossible to say
whether the cave-dwellers of France and
Switzerland lived at the same time exactly,
but they were in about the same condition of
civilization, and they must both have been
quite familiar with the appearance of the
mammoth and lion, and other animals, which
are not mentioned in any history, how-
ever old it may be, as inhabitants of these

A discovery has lately been made in
France of a large cavern near Belfort, in the
limestone rock, which has been covered up
for ages. The quarrymen while cutting out
the stone came upon a small opening leading
into a very large cave, in which there was
a great quantity of human skeletons and
bones and some beautifully ornamented vases,
polished stone bracelets, and a mat of plaited
rushes. To these people, then, the arts of
pottery and weaving were known, and this


was probably one of their burying-places.
They were evidently much more civilized
than the ancient people of the valley of the
Vezere ; but this cave must also be of a
great age, and its inhabitants have left no
record of their history in any kind of

Quite lately, too, we have learned some-
thing of the early races of man in Colorado.
Many of the caves in that country have been
altered and made more like regular houses,
and some appear even to have been cut
out of the rock entirely by human hands ;
and in the plains there are ruins of large

Though still in the stone age, for all the
weapons yet found among these ruins are
of stone, the Colorado people were more
civilized than the stone-age people of the
Vezere caverns, because they had begun to
build and knew how to make pottery. It is
strange, too, that the present natives of Colo-
rado are not so civilized as the early people,
and if they have descended from them they
have not improved, but rather the contrary.
There are other caverns in various parts of


the world containing these curious relics of
races long since passed away, but some of
the principal have been mentioned, enough
perhaps to interest you and show you that
men were living in Europe together with the
large animals of the Tertiary period, and that
they had made very little progress in the arts
and manufactures, and had not even begun to
build the roughest houses.

In many parts of the world even now
there are savages nearly as uncivilized as the
cave-dwellers of Europe were then. When
Captain Cook visited New Zealand, more
than a hundred years ago, the natives there
had nothing but stone and bone tools, very like
those found in the European caverns, and the
inhabitants of some of the islands in the Pacific
Ocean still use stone axes and hammers
and bone needles. 1 Captain Moresby, too,
who made a voyage to the south-east coast
of New Guinea a few years ago, tells us
that the natives have beautiful stone axes,
but they were so ignorant of the use of iron
that they refused to give him one of their

1 Examples of stone implements of New Zealanders in
Ethnographical Room, Cases No. 45-48, upper floor.


stone axes for a new iron hatchet which he
offered them. No doubt the stone weapon
cost a great deal of labour and patience to
make, and perhaps the iron one was made by
machinery in a few minutes, and was really
more useful, but the native had proved his
own axe and knew nothing of the iron one,
so that it is no wonder that he refused it.
But what a history these two axes tell the
stone and the iron ! The stone shows us
man in his childhood, and the iron man in his
manhood, and what an immensely long time
there is between the two. How much
thought, and trial and failure, and patience
and industry, were spent by mankind before
the stone axe grew into the iron !

In Europe man has long since grown out
of his childhood, but in many parts of the
world he is no more civilized than the men
who saw the mammoth crashing through the
forests of England and France, and heard
the lion roar at night on the banks of
the Thames, and watched the hippopotamus
swimming across the river at Westminster.
It is most likely, then, that Europe arid parts
of Asia and America were inhabited long


before those places where men are even now
in the stone age such as the islands in the
Pacific Ocean, New Guinea, Australia, &c.

What a life the pre-historic men of Europe
must have lived ! Here they were surrounded
by huge dangerous animals, and had no
means of protecting themselves against them
but with these rough stone weapons. Where
London now stands with its miles of streets
and busy life there was a mighty forest, and
the mammoth and rhinoceros tramped through
it by day, and the lion and hyena hunted
the deer at night. When the pre-historic men
came down to the banks of the Thames in
the day-time to spear salmon, they saw the
hippopotamus plunging about in the water
among the rushes, sweeping the long grass
into their wide mouths, and swimming from
side to side with their young ones perched
upon their necks. It must have been a
grand sight, but a fearful one too, and it is
no wonder that men thought the caves the
only safe places to live in.

Sometimes in India the elephants come
into the villages at night and throw down
wooden houses and kill people, and they are


very much feared, so that we can suppose
how much more terrible the mammoth misiit


have been to the uncivilized cave-dwellers.
If they shot at him with the flint-pointed
arrows they could scarcely hurt him, and it
is more likely that they got out of his way as
quickly as possible whenever they met him,
and took good care never to interfere with
the lion and rhinoceros.


Among the earliest inhabitants of Europe,
there were some who did not live in caves ;
but I think they must have lived a long time
after the cave-dwellers, when they built their
houses out in the middle of the lakes.
These houses were built in a very curious
way, and the remains of them have been dis-
covered in Ireland and Scotland, Switzerland
and other countries. The people carried
quantities of stones, and earth, and sticks out
into the lake and let them sink to the bottom.
Then when they had piled up enough to make
an island, they laid wood across and set up
theirhuts, and lived there surrounded by water.
These were very poor houses of course ; but



when men had begun to build for themselves,
they would find how much more comfortable
they were than in damp and dark caves.
They must have had some kind of boats or
canoes, or they could not have passed between
their lake-dwellings and the land unless they
swam to them ; but I do not think that any of
these boats have been found. Perhaps they
were made of the dried skins of animals
stretched over wooden frames, as I have seen
savages make boats.

There was another way of building these
lake-dwellings, and a better way too. Long
poles were driven into the earth at the bottom
of the water, and when the builders had got
enough of these together they laid other
poles across them, and built their huts on
this floor above the water. People are living
now in much the same way near the Orinoco
river in South America, in New Guinea, and in
Central Africa. 1 The land all round is covered
with water from the overflowing of the rivers,
which are very large, and the huts are built up
on these poles out of the way of it. The lake-
dwellers of Europe would thus be safer in their

1 In Lake Mohrya. Across Africa, by V. L. Cameron.


houses from dangerous animals than if they
were on land. They were more civilized than
the cave-dwellers, but still a great many of their
tools and weapons were of stone and bone ;
yet we know that they had made wonderful
progress, because they had learned to make
pottery, and even to weave cloths out of hemp
or flax. They had most likely begun to plant
and cultivate the land, too, for corn is found
about these dwellings, and the bones of
domestic animals are very numerous. They
had left the cave-dwellers a long way behind
in many things, in wearing artificial clothing,
in cultivating the land, and in keeping do-
mestic animals; but their implements that
is, their weapons and tools were not much
improved, and were very much like those of
the cave-dwellers, though better finished and
more polished than some of theirs.

But not all the articles used by the lake
people were of stone and bone. Some of those
who lived in the Swiss lakes had ornaments,
such as bracelets and hair-pins, made of the
metal called bronze, and no doubt they made
spear-heads of the metal, because they would
look to usefulness before ornament.


Now you see how these people seem to
have lived : first the old stone age men, then
those of the newer or polished stone age, and
lastly the lake-dwellers. The people of both
the first and second stone ages certainly saw
the mammoth, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, lion,
and reindeer alive in France, Switzerland, and
England ; but when the lake-dwellings were
built, all these animals, except perhaps the
reindeer, had died, and most of the animals
were the same as they are now. None of these
people have left us any kind of history what-
ever, except that which their simple works tell
us, their flint and bone weapons, and their
dwellings. They have set up no gigantic
monuments like the Egyptians or the Druids.
They thought of no men to come after them
who would take an interest in their ways ; but
it is fortunate that what they did make was
of such lasting materials as stone and flint, or
we should have known next to nothing about
their lives.

It is impossible to say how many thou-
sands of years may have passed before the
rough stone weapons were replaced by the
polished stone, or the cave was exchanged


for an artificial house in a lake ; but you must
feel in your minds that the time was immense,
and the more we study the ways and works
of pre-historic man, the more certain we
become that it is longer than the whole time
that has passed since men first began to use
any kind of writing.


I dare say you have seen untidy people
in country places, and even in towns, throw
oyster-shells and broken dishes and dirt out-
side their doors until quite a heap is formed.
This is called a " midden," and the habit of
doing this is a very old one. We learn just
a little more of the history of man from great
middens made by ancient people in several
countries. They were first discovered in
Denmark, and since then they have been
found in Scotland, Brazil, and New Zealand.
They are sometimes very large, and must
have been used by the whole village as places
to throw the refuse of their cookery in. When
these heaps have been dug into all sorts of
things have been found in them the shells of
oysters and mussels, bones of fishes, birds, and


animals, pieces of broken earthenware, little
ornaments, stone axes, arrow-heads, wood
ashes, burnt bones, and other odds and ends.
In Brazil many of these kitchen-middens are
on the sea-shore, and it seems as if the people
who made them came there to live on the
shell-fish, for the shells are the same as those
living in the sea close by now. In New
Zealand the middens contain many of the
bones of the Moa, which was described in
" The Animal Part," and has now perished, and
these are cracked in such a manner that the
people evidently wanted to get at the marrow
in them, and it shows too that this gigantic
bird was common in New Zealand then.
The midden makers seemed to have lived in
the open air, and wherever food was most
plentiful. Perhaps they built huts of the
bark and small branches of trees like the
Australian savages, but such houses would
not last. We only know of the life of the
midden makers from these heaps. Their
weapons are of the same kind and pattern as
those of the Second Stone Age, but they had
learned to make rough earthenware dishes
and basins, and some pieces of a woven


material have been found, and pieces of wood
and bone worked with a little skill. Whether
they lived after or before the lake-dwellers I
cannot say, but I should think about the.
same time.

These pre-historic people, nevertheless,
were not always thinking of making things
which were useful. They thought too of
making ornaments, many of which are found
in their 'dwellings and graves. Like ourselves,
they had an idea that little trinkets improved
their appearance. In one grave a skeleton
was found with a small pile of shells under
its neck, which no doubt had been strung
together as a necklace, and when the string
rotted the shells parted and fell in a heap under
the head, to be a memorial of that ancient man
or woman's possession of the same feelings as
our own. Various little articles, too, found
about the lake-dwellings show that people
liked to decorate themselves.

We shall never know what language they

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Online LibraryArthur NicolsThe puzzle of life, and how it has been put together : a short history of the formation of the earth, with its vegetable and animal life, from the earliest times, including an account of Pre-historic man, his Weapons, Tools, and Works → online text (page 6 of 8)